Nature and Science
Nerve: Adventures in the Science of Fear by Eva HollandWhat it's about: When the thing she dreads most comes to pass, journalist Eva Holland embarks on a quest to understand the nature of fear by examining current scientific research, interviewing experts, and confronting some of her personal phobias.
What you'll learn: why we feel fear, what it does to the brain, and strategies for living with it ("overcoming" fear isn't really an option).
For fans of: the immersive, first-person reporting of Mary Roach.
Galileo and the Science Deniers by Mario LivioWhat it is: a biography of Renaissance scientist Galileo Galilei.
What sets it apart: Astrophysicist Mario Livio offers a scientist's perspective on Galileo's achievements while drawing parallels between Galileo's era and our own.
Did you know? Despite his dedication to understanding the world through the collection of empirical data, Galileo had a keen interest in astrology, regularly casting horoscopes.
Trees in Trouble: Wildfires, Infestations, and Climate Change by Daniel MathewsStarring: the pine forests of the western United States, pushed to the brink by beetle infestations, diseases, and wildfires -- all of which are exacerbated by the greatest threat of all: climate change.
Try these next: Michael Kodas' Megafire, which traces the rise of large-scale, high-intensity wildfires; Lauren Oakes' In Search of the Canary Tree, which uses a single species to examine the myriad threats to North America's forests.
Becoming Wild: How Animal Cultures Raise Families, Create Beauty, and Achieve Peace by Carl SafinaThe premise: Animals learn how to be animals from other members of their social groups, suggesting that culture isn't exclusively a human invention.
Contains: observations of sperm whales ("Raising Families"), scarlet macaws ("Creating Beauty"), and chimpanzees ("Achieving Peace")
Reviewers say: Biologist Carl Safina's latest combines "the knowledge of a seasoned scientist with the skills of a good storyteller" (NPR).
Biography of Resistance: The Epic Battle Between People and Pathogens by Muhammad H. Zaman, Ph.D.What it's about: the emergence of antibiotic-resistant "superbugs," a problem that humans created but may not be able to solve.
Did you know? Some 35,000 people in the U.S. die every year from multi-drug-resistant infections; worldwide, such infections claim more lives than breast cancer, HIV/AIDS, or complications from diabetes.
Further reading: Matt McCarthy's Superbugs: The Race to Stop an Epidemic.
Buzz: The Nature and Necessity of Bees by Thor HansonWhat it is: a conservation biologist's celebration of bees.
What sets it apart: While most bee-themed books focus on honeybees, this one includes species ranging "from leafcutters and bumbles, to masons, miners, diggers, carpenters, wool-carders, and more."
Try this next: armchair entomologists may also enjoy Paige Embry's Our Native Bees, which examines North America's insect pollinators.
Bugged: The Insects Who Rule the World and the People Obsessed with Them by David MacNealStarring: insects, the overlooked, underappreciated 75 percent of the animal kingdom that for over 400 million years has been profoundly shaping life on Earth.
Did you know? Insects outnumber humans 1.4 billion to one, pollinate 80 percent of the plants that feed us, and recycle our organic waste.
Further reading: Scott Richard Shaw's Planet of the Bugs.
Underbug: An Obsessive Tale of Termites and Technology by Lisa MargonelliWhat it's about: termites, our "underappreciated overlords" whose activities keep the planet running.
Want a taste? "Termites have made the world by unmaking parts of it. They are the architects of negative space. The engineers of not."
Feeling brave? Try Brooke Borel's Infested (about bed bugs) or Rob Dunn's Never Home Alone (surveying some 200,000 common household species).
Buzz, Sting, Bite: Why We Need Insects by Anne Sverdrup-Thygeson; translated by Lucy Moffatt; illustrated by Tuva Sverdrup-ThygesonWhat it is: an entomologist's engaging, ultimately hopeful meditation on the importance of insects, enhanced with delicate pencil illustrations.
So why DO we need them? Without them, the planet would die (and, with it, us.)
Food for thought: "We have a moral duty to take the best possible care of our planet's myriad creatures, including those that do not engage in visible value creation..."
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